New data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) has revealed that, for the first time, UK applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds have outnumbered white applicants to ‘highly competitive courses’ at UK universities. These include courses offered by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as medicine, dentistry, and veterinary degrees, all of which have an early application deadline in October instead of the regular January deadline.
For the 2023-24 application cycle, 50.8% of the 51,890 UK applicants to these courses were BAME students, a noticeable increase compared to the previous year (49.3%) and significantly higher than the corresponding proportion in 2015 (32.1%). By contrast, the number of white applicants from the UK fell to 25,530 this year, the lowest such figure in over ten years.
Moreover, this year marked a record high in the number of 18-year-old applicants from the most deprived regions in the UK, with 3,160 applications made to Oxbridge and medical degrees, which constitutes a 7% increase compared to last year and is over twice the corresponding figure in 2017.
Although applications from disadvantaged students have increased at a greater rate than those of students from the wealthiest areas, the latter are still much more likely to apply to highly competitive courses.
Dr Mark Corver, managing director of dataHE, a higher education data analytics firm, told The Telegraph: “The profile of applications to these courses remains highly skewed, with 9.2% of young people in richer neighbourhoods applying, compared to 2.2% in poorer areas, but this gap does not seem to be widening this year.”
These findings coincide with the introduction of new outreach initiatives at Oxford, including the Astrophoria Foundation Year programme, which welcomed its inaugural cohort of students this year. The programme provides an opportunity for academically talented students who have experienced significant disadvantage or disruption during their education to obtain an undergraduate degree from the University, following a foundation year designed to bridge the gap between sixth form and undergraduate study.